Shelton P&Z to take look at zone blamed for overdevelopment

The Shelton Planning & Zoning Commission has set a date to discuss whether to make changes in a unique zoning district being used for most major developments in the city.

The P&Z will hold a special meeting on the Planned Development District (PDD) on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Commission member Mark Widomski has been pushing for the meeting, with concerns PDDs are being used too frequently and inappropriately. He has suggested enacting a moratorium on PDDs except in the downtown area.

“PDDs are being used where they never should be,” Widomski has said.

City zoning consultant Anthony Panico may prepare some possible changes in the PDD regulations for the commission to consider, although some members have emphasized they really should be leading the way on what direction to go. The PDD regulations were last altered in 2006.

At the Jan. 8 P&Z meeting, Widomski said the P&Z needs to debate issues surrounding PDDs first rather than look for staff guidance on how to rewrite the regulations.

“Staff doesn't need to prepare anything” at this time, but instead listen to ideas by P&Z members,” Widomski said.

Chairman Virginia Harger agreed.

”The first part is just meeting and hashing it out among commissioners,” said Harger, noting the process will likely require a few meetings.

Member Elaine Matto said that input from staff, including background on the history and past uses of PDDs, might be helpful to have when a discussion takes place.

Panico, participating in the meeting by speaker phone, said the P&Z needs to figure out exactly what it wants to do with PDDs. "The commission needs to come to some consensus” and “decide what direction it wants to go,” he said.

This might include eliminating some “gray areas” and establishing rules on exactly where PDDs can be used while continuing to allow them downtown, Panico said.

Harger liked that general approach.

“That's a good way to do it — you can't do it here but you can do it here,” she said.

Opponents have criticized the frequent use of PDDs in Shelton for allowing zone changes, encouraging spot zoning and overdevelopment, permitting projects in inappropriate areas, and for being used on small parcels.

Foes also have said PDDs are being used too often for residential projects, allowing developers to avoid a requirement to set aside open space on housing subdivisions.

Proponents of PDDs have argued they help attract desirable private development and give the P&Z greater control over what specifically happens at a development site.

According to the regulations, PDDs are intended “to encourage and accommodate unique and desirable development that will be consistent with the long range, orderly development of an area but is not accommodated by the established conventional zoning of that area.”

The regulations state that each PDD is an “independent zoning district created to accomplish a specific purpose, complete with its unique and narrowly drawn permitted uses” and other standards.

The PDD zone cannot be used on properties surrounded entirely by single-family residential zones.